As I move around the oldest parts of this church building at Central — up and down stairs, in and out of rooms, through back hallways and across wide open concourses — I realize more and more that this is not my church. As I search for quiet places in this building to pray and to read the Scriptures — in the worship center balcony, the back of the chapel, the prayer room, outside in the shade at 14th and Jackson — I see very clearly that I’m in way over my head here.
Seriously. This is a different deal.
At Legacy, I was blessed to walk into a church building that was only six years old. All of it. Brand new location. Brand new building. New everything. Yes, there was a history. Legacy had been established as the Pipeline Road Church back in 1959. But Legacy wasn’t Pipeline. And that was fine. We were blessed to build and open a brand new 1,500 seat worship center in my second year there. I helped decide on some of the furnishings. I fought for a communion table. The current baptism practices and traditions at Legacy were started in that brand new room in the summer of 2008. I was the first and only Legacy preacher in that room. And if I’m really honest with myself, looking back, I think I actually felt some kind of ownership there. Maybe not always in the healthiest way.
It’s different here. Central was established by fourteen people in October 1908. They met in the downtown county couthouse. One hundred and three years ago. The very first Church of Christ in Amarillo. The first building this church owned was at 10th Street and Fillmore. But that was only until 1930. That was the year the Central Church of Christ, over 700 strong, held their first Christian assembly in this beautiful chapel that we still occasionally use today. Same stained glass windows. Same pews and light fixtures. Same pulpit. I walked in there with 81-year-old Scottie Witt yesterday and he pointed to the baptistry.
“That’s where I was baptized, right there,” he said. “1943. I was thirteen years old.”
And Scottie will be in there listening to me preach this Sunday night! In that same room! He’s listened to 16 other Central preachers before me. He’s heard them all. He can tell you how and where they stood, their favorite gestures and phrases, something memorable or funny about each one of them.
There’s rich history in this sacred space. Every room has stories, every staircase has a tale, every pew has a testimony to the faithfulness of God with his people.
This is not my church.
I have landed in a place where God has been working in and through his people for over a hundred years. Faithful men and women have been doing good deeds in the name of Jesus, serving others in the manner of Christ, worshiping God in the Spirit at this place for more than a century. Who do I think I am, coming in here and pretending to be able to speak to them a word from our Father?
I’m merely number seventeen, the latest in a long, long list of faithful men who have stood in these rooms and dared to preach the Word. From F. L. Young and F. B. Shepherd at the turn of one century through Dick Marcear and Dan Bouchelle at the turn of another. I suppose I should preach at least one sermon first but, eventually, they’re going to put my picture up on a wall among pictures of the likes of Robert Jones, Silas Templeton, and M. C. Cuthberson. It’s so incredibly humbling. And dreadfully frightening.
If I think too long about it, I can get overwhelmed with a true sense of inadequacy. I’m wholly inadequate for this task. I’m not qualified for this gig. I don’t have the ideas or the abilities, the smarts or the skills, to do this. I’ve been pushed into something that’s so much bigger than me. God’s been doing great and miraculous things here for 103 years! And I’m going to stand up Sunday after Sunday here and preach?!? I’m not sure I can do this. I don’t fully understand how I’m going to do this.
And, upon further review, I’m certain that’s exactly where my God wants me: wholly dependent on him to do the job he’s called me to do; fully recognizing that all-surpassing power is from him, not me; and understanding that any competence I may have is a gracious gift from above.
Central is not my church; it belongs to God. It’s not mine to lead; that is the job of our Father.